Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte returned to the lineup Tuesday for the team's game against the Milwaukee Brewers after serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
He received a mostly positive reception from the Pittsburgh fans, per Adam Berry of MLB.com:
Adam Berry @adamdberry
Mostly applause, with a few loud boos, as Starling Marte was introduced in the Pirates' starting lineup.2017-7-18 22:57:45
Marte was off to a sluggish start to the 2017 campaign with a .241/.288/.370 triple-slash line and two home runs through 13 games before the half-season suspension.
The 28-year-old Dominican Republic native released a statement through the Players Association after the MLB punishment was handed down (h/t ESPN.com's Mark Saxon).
"Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake, with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much," he said. "With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you."
Marte, who's been one of the Pirates' most reliable assets over the past five years, posted a career-best .818 OPS and stole 47 bases last season.
His absence was a major reason the Pittsburgh offense, which finished 13th in runs scored last year, dropped into the bottom third during the first half this season.
In early July, Marte called taking a substance that led to the suspension an "error" and vowed it wouldn't happen again once he returned, per Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"I'm not going to make this mistake again," he said. "I'm not going to trust anybody that brings or tells me anything. If anybody ever offers me anything, or I have to take anything, I'm going to always clear it with my trainer and the organization to ensure that what I am taking for my health and for my nutrition is in accordance with the regulations."
Marte opened the year in center field as the Pirates attempted to take advantage of his superior defensive skill set. He's expected to spend most of the remaining games in left, however, after Andrew McCutchen enjoyed an offensive resurgence following his return to center.
In addition, he would be ineligible to take part in the postseason if Pittsburgh makes a serious second-half surge to qualify for the playoffs.